Neither my Aunt Lola McCaskey nor her husband Frank Connor were particularly sensible people. Lola spent her entire life convinced that she alone was responsible for keeping everyone around her happy. That effort led her to some very bad decisions.
But Frank was worse. By day, he was an unhappy butcher in the local grocery store. By night, he was a fire-breathing evangelical revival preacher. In either role, he scared me to death -- whether he was coming home still wearing that bloody butcher's apron or whether I was sitting in a revival tent listening to him describe the fires of Hell. He scared Lola, too, and with good cause. He eventually ended his days in the state mental hospital after attacking her because he mistook her for the devil. But that's another story.
The chickens came much earlier in their married lives. One day Uncle
Frank came home upset about the price of eggs. Who knows what it was? -- Five cents a dozen, maybe.
Anyhow, whatever it was, he informed Aunt Lola that if
she wanted eggs from then on, she would have to get a chicken -- which she
did, because Lola always did what she was told. In fact, she bought a whole lot of chickens. She tried raising the
chickens in the back yard, but the neighbors complained.
She couldn't get rid of them because Frank had told her to raise them, so she moved them
into the basement. Frank seemed not to notice they were there, but the rest of the family knew. Can you imagine
what that did to the house? For years
afterwards, the entire house smelled like chicken droppings. They got rid of
the chickens eventually when they started to die off, but they never got rid of the smell.
And speaking of
chickens, one of the family legends concerned a chicken dinner at which there
was an unexpected guest, so that by the time the plate of chicken was passed
to Lola, all that was left was the tail. She took it, uncomplaining as always, and professed to find it
delicious. So from then on, everybody saved their chicken tails for her, and
she ate them for the rest of her life.
The same story
also spawned a famous family quote.
When she was asked how she liked the tail, her answer was "It was
good, what there was of it." Then, afraid that sounded like a complaint,
she added, "Oh, there was enough of it, such as it was."
The moral, I suppose, is that when you try to keep everyone happy, you end up pleasing no one, not even yourself..